Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Trouble With Tribbles

My chin is about an inch from my stem. I am well back on my seat with my feet at 3 and 9 o'clock on the pedals with my torso as flat as I can get it. My knees are tucked to within a centimeter of the top tube and my elbows are tucked in too as tight as I can get them while maintaining the perfect 90 degree or steeper bend. I can barely get my neck bent up far enough to see over my sunglasses as I watch for major road imperfections that I need to avoid and my eyes are watering like crazy. My rain jacket is noisily flapping a bit but it is doing it's job and keeping the cold wind from grinding at my core and arms so I can maintain some semblance of warmth as I blast this 7.5 mile downhill after the personal disaster for me that was checkpoint one.

I could stick my tongue out and lick my computer but decide instead to glance down at it quickly and check my speed. What the heck? 28 mph? I thought my blast felt slow. I normally judge a hill and how steep and hard it is to climb by how fast I can descend that same hill and while I haven't yet had a chance to ascend this hill that will eventually become climb number three of three proper climbs on this Tri-States Gran Fondo, when I see 28 mph in my full-on aero tuck suddenly I think I'm in store for a quite underwhelming ascent when I finally come back around to here and start this climb number three at mile 78.

But before I get to mile 78 and have to ascend this climb number three of roughly 1440 feet in roughly 7.5 miles, I first have to glide down it here at mile 28 and it is unfortunately going much slower than I had anticipated. The wind is whipping me like crazy and I can't really get a fix on from what specific direction it's really coming from, but it feels mostly like a brutally cold headwind. I was expecting a tailwind and I know the wind has picked up considerably from this morning's start but this is ridiculous.

The sun is climbing slowly and it has warmed up a little from the frosty breath cold of this morning's start, but still, it's a darn chilly day and now this wind is whipping like crazy. It is blasting at me in fierce cold gusts and pushing my bike and me all over the road on my way down this hill. Honestly, I was expecting to be gliding down easily around 35 to 40 mph or more based on the average 7% grade and not having to pedal at all, but rather, having the luxury of soft pedaling to keep my knees warmed up and loose. But no, it is not to be, so unfortunately I start pedaling on the 11 tooth cog and it is all I can do to hit a reasonable cadence in this wind and still my speed feels slow.

I love to descend. Even more, I love to descend fast. Way down deep inside of my quiet expectations for this Tri-States Gran Fondo, I was hoping to hit 50 or 55 mph on the downhills that I expected to encounter along the 112 miles and 7500 feet of descent that went along with the pain and suffering I felt I was going to endure with the 7500 feet of climbing. I glance down quickly again and instead suffer the fizzling disappointment of seeing 30ish mph on the computer.

This chilly wind is killing my fun. This wind is pushing me all over the road. This wind is strong and cold and gusting hard as I'm winding my way down the backside of Utah Hill on my way to the u-turn left at the bottom that we have all been warned not to miss. I look at the little clumps of bunch grass along the road's shoulder and it looks like it's bowing down to the road toward my bike and paying us homage. It reminds me of the Tribbles on Star Trek introduced to the crew on the Enterprise through Uhura who was given one by a galactic trader named Cyrano Jones. And  then the trouble with Tribbles ensued.

The bunch grass looks like Tribbles as the wind bows it over and it's everywhere along both sides of the road as I struggle downhill against this cold hammering wind. This wind reminds me of Captain Koloth and his First Officer Korax who were the Klingons causing all the trouble for the Enterprise crew along with the Tribbles. This Koloth/Korax Klingon wind is spoiling my downhill fun, forcing me to pedal and spend energy on what I thought was going to be a free ride and fun at a high rate of speed.

I feel like I'm Captain Kirk calling Scotty down in the engine room asking for more of something to reach a higher warp speed as I get blown over to the left then the right and then the left again. This wind is really fierce and hard and cold. I pass a number of riders coasting down the same hill, up on the hoods and taking it easy against the wind and the cold. "I'm giving it all she's got Captain" I say to myself in my best Scotty accent and I wonder how hard or easy or what it's going to be like when I get back here at mile 78 and work my way back up this hill full of Tribbles.

Will the wind die down? If it doesn't, it's going to be one heck of a headwind all the way back here from Veyo Pies and all the way back up this hill and all the way back to the finish in Mesquite. I get blown back to the left, the bottom of my wheels with their tiny one inch contact patches making the move first, tipping my bike precariously in the opposite direction that it is moving. Then the rest of my bike follows still tipped in the wrong direction as I try to carve precise corner apexes to aid my downhill slow high speed effort. I look down quickly at my computer again and realize that this downhill blast, this slow high speed effort has turned out a lot less blast and a lot less fast than I had hoped. That, I guess, is the trouble with Tribbles.

I know I'm getting to the bottom of Utah Hill as the cold wind continues shoving and bullying me around the road so I start to keep an eye out for that u-turn left that we've all been warned not to miss. A little further down the hill, I decide to straighten up, getting back on the hoods. In spite of my best efforts, the knees have cooled down a bit and gotten a little stiff too along with the neck from straining to crane up and see down the road.

The salty tears from my watering eyes have dried on the side of my cheeks and I find the u-turn left and brake long and hard to make the turn. I wonder how many, if any, riders will miss this u-turn left that we all were warned not to miss as I gently glide slowly through the u-turn and begin the push to my deep dish chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at Veyo Pies and checkpoint number two about 18 or so more miles up the road.

I glance up the hill I just descended when I get around the u-turn left and balance what I see with the speed I was able to accomplish on the way down and measure that against the wind I felt pushing and shoving me all over the road and I wonder just how hard will climb number three out of three proper climbs on this Tri-States Gran Fondo really be once I push my way through the wind back here to mile 78 and begin this climb. I scroll through my computer - top speed of 37ish mph - not too fast going down a hill.

Of course the wind was a factor and I felt like it was fighting me the whole way down and I wonder how much of how slow was due to the wind and how much of how slow was due to the hill's not going to be much of an ascent when it turns into climb number three at mile 78. Still an average 7 percent grade for roughly 7.5 miles is a climb and I know how I am on most climbs and there's still climb number two about 18 miles up the road and the wind and the cold to push my way back through the whole way in, but you know what? I am feeling good right now. I am feeling strong.

I glance back up the hill again as it disappears from view wondering how hard climb number three is really going to be at mile 78 as I make my way toward the bridge crossing the creek just up ahead. I decide to stop after the bridge and remove my rain jacket and windstopper beanie before the road starts pushing uphill again.

I remember all the bunch grass all bent over and flailing around all over the hill coming down and feel the wind gusting around right now like it's trying to figure out which direction to blow from so that it can torment me even more and I think again about the trouble with Tribbles. But, so what, I'm feeling good right now. I'm feeling strong right now and as I wonder about climb number three of three proper climbs at mile 78 on this Tri-States Gran Fondo, I hear the words of Scotty in his best Scotty accent: and I'm thinking this hill "will be no tribble at all..."

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